Thursday, September 3, 2009

De-Stress Thursday

6 Great Tips on Handling Stress

1. Stop the caffeine!

America's wake-up call, caffeine, is her downfall as well. This ubiquitous stimulant is found in coffee, black tea, chocolate, soft drinks and some medications such as cold remedies, diet formulas and wake-up pills.

Unfortunately, most people use caffeine's stimulating qualities to prop themselves up during tense times. Martin Feldman, MD, a New York physician says: "In our society, the stress of day-to-day living has a tendency to 'wear out' our adrenal glands." Caffeine is an ideal way to squeeze more adrenalin and norephinephrine out of the adrenals for a boost of energy. This constant jolting is tiring for both you and your adrenals. The result is usually another cup of coffee, exhaustion and addiction (The Journal of Orthomolecular Psychiatry, volume 13, number 1).

Stress and caffeine build upon one another. You can't sleep at night because of stress; caffeine makes it worse. Stress sends you into mood swings; caffeine pushes you harder. Caffeinism, caffeine addiction, can't be turned off at will so sleepless nights and restless days take a toll on your already stressed-out body.

Besides adding to stress, caffeine causes "coffee nerves", that nervous, irritable, anxious feeling. Other complaints include insomnia, increased urination, headaches, irregular or fast heartbeat, stomach pain, breathing problems, excessive sweating, spots in front of your eyes, ringing in your ears and tingling in your fingers and toes (Substance Abuse: A Comprehensive Textbook (2nd ed) (Williams & Wilkins) by Joyce H. Lowinson, MD et al (eds)).

2. Rest and Relaxation

Because of stress-and as a way to deal with a busy, stressful schedule-many people skimp on sleep. This is a big mistake. Less sleep not only deprives your body of necessary down time, but it can exacerbate stress and compound other health problems.

When you're doing laundry late at night because you're working all day or even getting early to attend exercise class even though you're exhausted, here's what happens. Tired people tend to be less civil and more irritable. Productivity and mental clarity diminish (so you drink more coffee). Sleepy children tend to get poor grades in school. Traffic accidents are more likely. Exhausted individuals are more apt to use alcohol and other drugs to compensate for fatigue. The un-rested tend to get sick more often.

How can you tell if you're sleep deprived? Here's a couple of hints: Can you nap anytime, anywhere? Do you fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow? Do you need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you're not getting enough sleep at night.

3. Exercise

One the other end of the spectrum is exercise. Like sleep, it's vital for good, low-stress health. Besides controlling weight, regular physical activity lowers your risk for heart disease, hypertension, colon cancer and stroke. Exercise increases longevity and helps diabetics manage their condition better (Journal of the American Medical Association, 1989, vol 262). These facts alone should decrease stress.

Before you get stressed out, let's look at why exercise should be part of your daily routine. First, it makes you feel better. Once you've been exercising for two months (make that a goal), you'll be hooked. Two, you'll look better. You'll smile easier, walk straighter, shed a few pounds and emanate a healthy glow. Lastly, stress will be much easier to handle-that project that usually takes two hours, may only require one and a half. There's your 30 minutes for physical activity. Not only does exercise remind tense muscles to relax, but you begin to breathe and forget about your worries, at least for awhile.

4. Alcohol

Many people use alcohol to relax. But this approach to stress reduction has far reaching effects. Short-term, drinking can cause hangovers, increased urination and thirst, and like caffeine, insomnia.

5. Stressful eating
Food isn't something you probably associate with stress. But what and how you eat has a direct impact on how you feel (and stress often affects the foods you choose).

Your body likes routine. Like sleep, plan meals and snacks at regular times throughout the day. It would great if we could all just eat when we're hungry, the healthiest way to go. But busy lives don't allow this. Instead, we tend to put off eating when chores or stress intervene, or we eat out of frustration or fatigue.

A regular meal schedule allows you to relax before eating which aids digestion. Carry this leisurely attitude to the dinner table. Enjoy your meal, each taste and the texture of your food and the people you're dining with. Notice when you're full and stop eating. Eating too fast or too much is stressful too.

Busy times require planning. Besides setting up regular mealtimes, map out a week's worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Include lots of fruits and vegetables (a minimum of five servings of both each day), lean toward whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat bread and pastas, and keep your protein at a good level with lean meats, skinless poultry, fish, beans and legumes, and even dairy.

Avoid sweet, fatty snacks during breaktime or late at night. Even though they taste good and seem to ease stress, too much sugar and fat do more harm than good. Although recent studies show that carbohydrates (of which sugar is one) calm most people down, long-term too many sweets add to your stress, not decrease it.

6. A stress-free attitude!

Much of stress management is based on how you think and act in certain situations. Here are a few suggestions to help carry you through the day.
  • Vary your routine. Have you ever wondered why you get tired after sitting all day? Your body needs a mixture of mental and physical tasks. When thinking exhausts you, take a break and doing something physical.
  • Attitude. How do you look at adversity? Do you make a mountain out of a mole hill? Or do you put things in perspective? Don't take everything personally and ask yourself: "Will this really matter in 20 years?"
  • Laugh more. Enough said...Ha, ha, ha!!!
  • Just say no. Turning down a request is nearly impossible for some. But you have to do it occasionally or you'll be constantly on the run. Start to practice saying no today. It'll get easier with time, I promise.
  • Do one thing at a time, and do it well.
  • Take care of problems and tasks immediately. If you need to make an unpleasant phone call, do it now. Waiting will just add to your stress quotient. When the mail arrives, sift through it right now, tossing (or recycling) garbage, filing or paying bills.
  • Talk out problems with friends or family.
  • Simplify. All the date planners in the world aren't going to erase stress if you're doing too much.
© 1995 Lauri M. Aesoph N.D.


Cherie said...

#1 is my biggest problem. I am a Coke drinker and I need to give it up but I don't want to. There is no patch - ha ha.

Great post!!

Brooke said...

i <3 naps :) but yes, i can sleep anywhere, any time. i look at it as a gift.

mommaof3 said...

caffine is my biggest problem

Heatherlyn said...

Great list! Although, I didn't see finances on there. Not spending more money than you have and having a savings for a rainy day definitely helps to lower stress levels!

Tam said...

HMMM thinks to make me go HMMM today!

Grand Pooba said...

Yeah, so I wish I hadn't read #1. I need my caffeine!

babyrocasmama said...

I stopped drinking caffeine and soda a few weeks ago. I think I have lost some weight as well from doing that. But now I am addicted to Simply lemonade. LOL YUUUMMMM.

Anonymous said...

I really should give up the caffeine....

Mighty M said...

Yeah, #1 is my biggest issue too....

ChicagoLady said...

My biggest problem (I feel) is getting enough sleep. If I were to go to bed so that I could wake up when I needed to get up without an alarm, I'd be in bed about 8pm. And I'd have no life, bloggy or real. So I make up for it and sleep a lot on the weekends. Definitely some good things to think about here though.

LadyStyx said...

All very good ideas.